Why do Marshall amps have such piercing high treble capabilities?

scozz

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………….The worst trait for an amp is to be ‘muddy’ I think. I love Marshalls and most who complain that they are too bright usually are just playing with themselves. Rather than turned up in a band situation I mean haha
I’ve been a Marshall fanboy since about 1971, I’ve been playing them on and off for many years.

Now I’m old, disabled and playing only at home, and I still need that singing Marshall “keraang” in my little 14 x12 music room! Lol!
 
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taylodl

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The reason I mentioned the size of the room, is because it’s very small to be cranking a Marshall.

That’s the reason,…. I don’t know what you’re implying?!

It is a small room to be cranking a Marshall but that's why they make hearing protection, right? To me I ain't playing unless I feel it! Then again, I also live in a suburban ranch home on a large lot where the nearest neighbors are several hundred feet away! There's simply no way I can play the way I do were I living in an apartment.
 

Gain Man

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Interesting read.

Let me add something to this topic, which has not been discussed yet:
I believe there is no "one size fits all" approach to cutting through the mix. It depends on the type of music and the line-up of the band.

A few examples:
I always used to cut through well in a two guitar lineup playing Rock and 80's style Metal with a classic type 80's Marshall sound and an upper mid range focus.

In contrast to that think modern Metal. I was singer in a band once, where both guitar players had Engls. Lots of bass, lots of low mids and everything tuned down one step. The guitars cut through the mix very well, but in a completely different frequency range than a Marshall would.

In the past 15 years or so I have played in two bands with a guitar and keyboard line-up. While finding my place in the mix I also ended up looking for the low-mid roar, to cut through below the keyboard, which dominated the higher mids and treble. To make this work I sometimes had to make the bass player cut down the low mid range in order to not drown me out.

Disclaimer: Of course in all those cases you always need a certain degree of treble. I am just talking about which frequency areas appear to be most prominent in the mix.

To make a long story short: maybe many manufacturers (and Marshall to a lesser extent) voice amps for the "Madison Square Bedroom", but maybe they just realised that cutting through the mix sometimes requires a focus on other frequency areas, depending on which types of music the amp was designed for.

In general, just listen to any kind of modern Rock or Metal. It seems like upper mids in guitars have gone a little out of fashion, while still cutting through.

Feel free to discuss these thoughts. :)
 

Vinsanitizer

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That's what I really like about this forum - there is a dedicated "Cabs and Speakers" sub.
On other forums it's mostly about the amps.
Speakers and cabs? Not so much...

I can tell you I know guys who constantly switched their amps but never their cab because they weren't that happy with their sound.
It can't be said often enough how important the speakers are!
That's why I went down the rabbit hole many years ago and tried a lot of different speakers since then.
Imho it's at least as important as the amp itself!
Of course a real sh*tty amp wouldn't sound great even with good speakers... :D
The older models may be bright in their own respect, but they do have a balanced frequency range and cut through the mix without sounding thin and ear piercing. On the other hand, then we have the entire DSL and JVM line, which are nothing like their elders. With those models, you can just turn the treble off entirely, and use the Mid control to try and balance out your mids and highs. The moment you add Treble, the fizzier and ice-picky it gets, and if your gain is above 10:00, you're just going for the soda pop fizz. Marshall, in my opinion, really screwed with the Bass, Mid, and Treble frequencies with the DSL and JVM. They can sound a bit like toys compared to their elders side-by-side, lacking the same meaty fullness and midrange conviction. I've been running my JCM 800 and DSL20HR in stereo through my 1960A cab, so I can just keep swapping the Input jacks back an forth to adjust the DSL to sound like the JCM. You can get really close, but the DSL is will always have a thinner top-end and lacks low-mids where the meat is. No matter how you mix the Bass and Resonance, you can get close to the JCM 800 sound, but it's just not quite there. You could probably do it by adding an EQ to the DSL's FX loop, and adding maybe 400Hz or perhaps even try the 250Hz spot a decibel or two, but I don't care to get that involved. Bottom line, IMO, is as I've been saying since the DSL and JVM lines came out, (both of which I've owned various versions of), which is, that they were Marshall's answer to the MESA Dual Rectifier sound. The amount of gain, the Tone (mid-scoop) switch, the Deep switch, and the shifting of the Mid control to a higher frequency to acquire a bit more of the Recto's aggression, were all obvious.

Here's how I'm getting about 90% of the JCM 800 sound on the DSL20. Notice how different the controls have to be set - notice the DSL's Presence and Treble have to be set to zero, the Mids and Bass way up, and it still needs some Resonance. The Tone Shift is off (out), YMMV:

1656634466201.png
 
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Solid State

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I thought I had posted in this thread but I definitely want to chime in

That high end bite is exactly the Marshall tone. Hitting a G chord on a Marshall is a glorious sound that produces the perfect "kerraaang" - it's a blooming sound if you slow pick the chord and downright explosive if you just nail it. Both are freaking fun. It definitely blares, so for people that want to be subtle and play friendly with a band, it takes some skill to keep things from getting uglier than the band desires. Louder is always better, even on the solid state models, but even at low volume they're some of the best amps around.
 

peterplexi

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Why do Marshall's tend to have such razor-cutting highs? The highs are enough to slice through your head at ear level.

I am always dialing mine back both in the amp and tone knob on the guitar. Like I have trebs on 2 - 3 and tone on 3 - 4 in some cases. Also rolled back the volume a bit on the guitar.

So why are they so high? Is it because of harmonics or something?

I tend to compensate with the Presence or that also goes down.

Maybe it's because I don't play loud enough. Like volume up in high mode without attenuation. If you play them loud enough do you need to turn the trebs up to get a response there or something?

Just wondering.
They are designed that way so that when you have to turn it up at a gig and the power amp starts to compress, you will still have enough high end to articulate.
 

treblebooster

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This is at the core of what many folks do not get about Marshalls— they find their own spot with the band. Just noodling in the house I’m always fiddling with the controls, but actually playing— I just turn it on and forget it. Heard so many theories about this though: four holers were dark, 60s grille cloth was thick, etc. so all the amps of the 80s and later were built bright to compensate for the sins of the “dark” 60s amps. Not sure if I buy this but makes for good reading in whatever guitar rag you prefer.
 

Jason Cole

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Better to have it, not need it and turn it down than to not have it available at all! No amount of knob twisting can add treble, high mids or presence that doesn't already naturally exist in the circuit. And contrary to popular notion, the tone controls on most standard style Marshalls are NOT boost or cut from the center position, but instead "cut only" from full on ten! And Bass, Mid & Treble controls are highly interactive upon each other, with the Presence being the upper high end treble cherry on top! This is why many players like Jimi Hendrix have been reputed to fully dime their amps. The part of that story often left out though, is that he would initially dime it all and then simply "cut" what he didn't want and/or need! Tone shaping is often best accomplished (once in the ball park) through subtle, small changes, as opposed to trying to paint that sound with a broad brush and/or broad strokes of that brush!
Just Screechin' & Squawkin'
Gene
Well said. This is what I've found on my Marshall vintage modern. I dime it and pull back where where I want. I read that these amps (and I would think most Marshall's) are designed to sound best dimed and to my ears thats true.
 

[email protected]

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Why do Marshall's tend to have such razor-cutting highs? The highs are enough to slice through your head at ear level.

I am always dialing mine back both in the amp and tone knob on the guitar. Like I have trebs on 2 - 3 and tone on 3 - 4 in some cases. Also rolled back the volume a bit on the guitar.

So why are they so high? Is it because of harmonics or something?

I tend to compensate with the Presence or that also goes down.

Maybe it's because I don't play loud enough. Like volume up in high mode without attenuation. If you play them loud enough do you need to turn the trebs up to get a response there or something?

Just wondering.
I play loud mostly anyway when I can that is. I like to feel the music while I play. Then there are times when I can't play at the volume I'm used to. Therefore I make the adjustments to my surroundings.
I guess I'm just used to adjusting.
Never seemed to be a problem for me.
 

Dawgfanjeff

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There is little more glorious than a open G (with 5th string muted) on a nice loud marshall. Eddie knew it, too. See Aint talking...and mean Street for examples.
My Bray has an anti-'zing' knob to tame that sizzle at lower volumes.
As I understand it, wht makes an amp change sounds as you turn it up is easily attributed to the Fletcher (F. Fletch) Munson Curve (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal-loudness_contour). The amp and speakers aren't changing, your sensitivity to high frequencies is, it's getting worse. I'd love to see tests done with mics and input levels to verify this, although mics, too have different sensitivity levels at diff volumes.
 

diego_cl

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My Marshall combo came with an Eminence AX-75 speaker, some kind of G12T-75 knockoff.

If I use the Marshall with the Jensen C12K speaker of the Deluxe Reverb, the amp isn't harsh at all. The AX-75 are very trebly. The Jensen C12K have more bass and more clarity (3K freq), and compared to the AX-75, it's like using a low pass filter, because there's not much treble past 3K with the Jensen, it's a very elegant sound. The AX-75 are very lawless and unpleasant past 3K, too much unwanted treble.

When cranking the amp a lot, the compression somewhat fixes that.

There's a lot of difference between G12T and vintage speakers like V30 or Greenback.

In my short experience, I don't know if Marshall have more treble or if it's just something related to the speaker selection.
 

gooman

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Why do Marshall's tend to have such razor-cutting highs? The highs are enough to slice through your head at ear level.

I am always dialing mine back both in the amp and tone knob on the guitar. Like I have trebs on 2 - 3 and tone on 3 - 4 in some cases. Also rolled back the volume a bit on the guitar.

So why are they so high? Is it because of harmonics or something?

I tend to compensate with the Presence or that also goes down.

Maybe it's because I don't play loud enough. Like volume up in high mode without attenuation. If you play them loud enough do you need to turn the trebs up to get a response there or something?

Just wondering.
try a fender bassman ltd talk about a cutting treble always have to dial back treble dial a whole lot.
 

Gregg Livesay

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Why do Marshall's tend to have such razor-cutting highs? The highs are enough to slice through your head at ear level.

I am always dialing mine back both in the amp and tone knob on the guitar. Like I have trebs on 2 - 3 and tone on 3 - 4 in some cases. Also rolled back the volume a bit on the guitar.

So why are they so high? Is it because of harmonics or something?

I tend to compensate with the Presence or that also goes down.

Maybe it's because I don't play loud enough. Like volume up in high mode without attenuation. If you play them loud enough do you need to turn the trebs up to get a response there or something?

Just wondering.
I can’t specifically tell you why they do but I can suggest how to work around it. I’ve played through Marshall’s since 1981 and they are still my workhorses. I use a 10 band MXR eq in the effects loop . I roll off a lot of that high end and it works perfectly
 

Gene Ballzz

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The older models may be bright in their own respect, but they do have a balanced frequency range and cut through the mix without sounding thin and ear piercing. On the other hand, then we have the entire DSL and JVM line, which are nothing like their elders. With those models, you can just turn the treble off entirely, and use the Mid control to try and balance out your mids and highs. The moment you add Treble, the fizzier and ice-picky it gets, and if your gain is above 10:00, you're just going for the soda pop fizz. Marshall, in my opinion, really screwed with the Bass, Mid, and Treble frequencies with the DSL and JVM. They can sound a bit like toys compared to their elders side-by-side, lacking the same meaty fullness and midrange conviction. I've been running my JCM 800 and DSL20HR in stereo through my 1960A cab, so I can just keep swapping the Input jacks back an forth to adjust the DSL to sound like the JCM. You can get really close, but the DSL is will always have a thinner top-end and lacks low-mids where the meat is. No matter how you mix the Bass and Resonance, you can get close to the JCM 800 sound, but it's just not quite there. You could probably do it by adding an EQ to the DSL's FX loop, and adding maybe 400Hz or perhaps even try the 250Hz spot a decibel or two, but I don't care to get that involved. Bottom line, IMO, is as I've been saying since the DSL and JVM lines came out, (both of which I've owned various versions of), which is, that they were Marshall's answer to the MESA Dual Rectifier sound. The amount of gain, the Tone (mid-scoop) switch, the Deep switch, and the shifting of the Mid control to a higher frequency to acquire a bit more of the Recto's aggression, were all obvious.

Here's how I'm getting about 90% of the JCM 800 sound on the DSL20. Notice how different the controls have to be set - notice the DSL's Presence and Treble have to be set to zero, the Mids and Bass way up, and it still needs some Resonance. The Tone Shift is off (out), YMMV:

View attachment 110685

A much better way to get the DSL20 (unique throughout the DSL series) closer to the SC20/JCM800 sound is to use the CLASSIC GAIN channel with both GAIN and VOLUME fully dimed, along with likely a really good attenuator, as it will be really loud! Most of those "lost" low mids, etc, of the ULTRA GAIN channel will suddenly and magically reappear! A volume box, like a JHS Little Black Amp Box in the loop may help tame the volume by effectively adding a MASTER volume to the DSL, but the sound of power tube overdrive/distortion will be mostly gone.

Again, the best solution for most volume and balancing issues is a really great attenuator. Yes, the really expensive reamping units (which are not really attenuators), like the UA OX, Fryette Power Station, BadCat Unleash, etc, can be great but a really good passive unit can achieve the desired results, as well as save a bunch of $$$! Almost all of the commercially available passive attenuators out there are absolute junk , when it comes to retaining tone and dynamic feel/response, as the volume goes down. The only design that doesn't bring this compromise is the "build your own" @JohnH unit, for less than $125 in parts/materials, detailed here:


While the thread is massive, all the real build info is in post #1 of the thread and detailed layout suggestions show up around page #111. The whole thread is well worth the read, as the "over your head" technical discussions and useless chaff are easily skimmed past. This design is simply the best passive attenuator design on the planet! These units are by far the best piece(s) of gear I've ever owned, in +50 years of Screechin' & Squawkin' with guitars through tube amps! If you are daunted by the thought of building one yourself, you can contact me privately to get in touch with a guy willing to build it for you!

Crank That DSL20!
Gene
 

deee

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Why do Marshall's tend to have such razor-cutting highs? The highs are enough to slice through your head at ear level.

I am always dialing mine back both in the amp and tone knob on the guitar. Like I have trebs on 2 - 3 and tone on 3 - 4 in some cases. Also rolled back the volume a bit on the guitar.

So why are they so high? Is it because of harmonics or something?

I tend to compensate with the Presence or that also goes down.

Maybe it's because I don't play loud enough. Like volume up in high mode without attenuation. If you play them loud enough do you need to turn the trebs up to get a response there or something?

Just wondering.
they should have an acceptable response. it may be the way a particular amp is set up, output tubes, bias setting and the like. a plexi marshall doesn't have the midrange scoop out in a 60's fender amp, the circuit is close to the 1950's fender bassman-and that's a big sounding amplifier. the circuit has a lot of low and midrange in there by design, but marshall decided to run a lot less negative feedback, which makes for more distortion, or maybe better put, crunch, and they added A LOT of pre amp and output stage capacitance in the 1970's plexi models that tightened up the response for very high output playing. that will make an amp sound 'hard' at lower and moderate volume. but again, the purpose in the 1970's was for their amps to sound just right whe run 'at 11'. years ago i owned 2 marshall plexi heads i bought used, and they both sounded too edgy so i just sold them. i didn't investigate mods or adjustments to get them where i wanted. i learned the obvious that it's always a good idea to try out an amplifier before you buy it, and not just go on reputation. my friend has a mid-2000's all tube 100 watt marshall head with 6,000 knobs and there's room to get great, usable sounds for a wide range of music styles. so they aren't necessarily one trick ponys
 

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